After 79 hours of research, including new 2016 tests on a half dozen heaters and comparisons among 72 competitors, our longtime winners have prevailed: the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat is the best for small rooms and the De’Longhi EW7507EB is the best for larger rooms.
If you need to quickly warm up small spaces of a hundred square feet or less, nothing can beat the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat for its low price, compact size, light 3-pound weight, rapid performance, ease of use, and great warranty—though this heater is a bit noisy because of its fan. It’s roughly the same size as a loaf of bread, so it’ll easily travel between rooms and fit almost anywhere. The Lasko 754200 was the third-fastest heater we tested this year, but that race was close, and the Lasko costs a lot less than the two models that beat it. With its proven reliability, affordability, and excellent heating ability, the Lasko was our pick for small rooms for more than four years and multiple updates to this guide. Several staff members have owned this machine for multiple winters with no complaints.
If you can’t get the Lasko, we suggest the Honeywell UberHeat HCE200W. The UberHeat was the fastest heater we tested this year and it raised the temperature of our test area higher than any others—at 89.4 degrees Fahrenheit after 120 minutes of operation, it was 2 degrees higher than the nearest competitor. It’s not our pick because of price—usually about $10 more than the Lasko—and to a lesser extent because it’s louder and it’s a new product with an unproven record on reliability.
For a larger space that you plan to warm for hours at a time, get the De’Longhi EW7507EB. This 14.5 by 6.3 by 25.2-inch radiator-style unit efficiently, silently, and steadily puts out plenty of heat, and it can maintain a set temperature on a schedule with its built-in thermostat and timer. Plus, it continues to produce heat for a full hour after you turn it off. The downside to this model is that it tends to be slow to heat up, weighs a hefty 24 pounds, and gets pretty hot to the touch.
If you can’t find our main radiator pick, the De’Longhi Radia S Eco TRRS 0715E is a good alternative for heating larger spaces. It doesn’t get as hot as our pick, but it’s just as quiet, and it weighs a few pounds less. The price and specs are similar to our pick’s, and this also includes a (not very impressive) feature that adjusts its heat settings to minimize energy use.
These conclusions come from a total of 45 hours of research and 34 hours of hands-on trials, including a new round of testing in the fall of 2016. As in years past, PhD physicist Jim Shapiro performed these tests in a controlled environment, measuring temperature, humidity levels, and the amount of noise each heater made.
I’ve tested and written about space heaters for the past five years—four of those years with the invaluable assistance of Jim Shapiro PhD. Jim has a physics degree from MIT, as well as a Master of Science and a PhD in mathematical physics from UCLA. He has taught geophysics at Texas A&M University, worked in the petroleum industry as a geophysicist, and authored a pair of books: one on the inner workings of everyday hardware and a second called In Your Head that explores mental calculations done without a pencil and paper or the aid of a computer. He’s the perfect choice to handle the data-intensive testing required to measure a heater’s performance in a controlled environment. In addition to mining Shapiro’s deep knowledge of all things electrical, we also consulted with an active-duty fire chief and a retired fire marshal about how to use space heaters safely. And, of course, we did our homework, checking a number of trusted editorial sources every year, including Consumer Reports, This Old House, and The New York Times to see which heaters their experts liked and why.
Since we first published this guide, we’ve considered 72 heaters, the majority of which failed to meet our criteria for being in called in for testing, and tested 30 models.
When buying a heater, it’s important to consider the size of the space you’re heating. According to our research, you’ll need between 10 and 15 watts of power per square foot (which varies based on how well-insulated the room is and whether windows or doors are present). So a 100-square-foot bedroom, for example, requires at least a 1,000-watt heater to keep things toasty.
Generally, the most powerful heater you can plug into a standard North American outlet maxes out at 1,500 watts. As the only heat source, it would be suitable for heating a meager 150 square feet. But as we outline in the safety section of this guide, space heaters are designed to serve as a supplemental heat source, not a primary one. So even with this 1,500-watt limitation, a good space heater should still be able to raise the temperature in the area around it by a few degrees.
We do everything we can to recommend products that are affordable and easy to buy. But space heaters are unique, with prices and availability that fluctuate wildly over the colder months of the year.
During the polar vortex of 2014, we saw the cost of our Lasko pick double almost overnight at a number of outlets—and that was only if we could even find it in stock. Most places—Amazon included—didn’t have any units available until early spring. So if you think you might need a new heater this winter, don’t wait for the cold weather to hit. Buy one early—the sooner, the better.
If you want to quickly heat an office or a small bedroom—or want a compact heater that can easily travel between them—the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat is your best option. In years past and in our 2016 tests, it nearly matched the most powerful heaters we tried. It generated more heat in 20 minutes than almost anything else we’ve tested, and after two hours, it raised our 11-by-13-foot testing room’s temperature to 87.4 degrees Fahrenheit (a 15.3 degree increase) in two hours. Our new runner-up pick, the Honeywell UberHeat, was able to best this temperature by an additional two degrees, but it usually costs about 30 percent more and, as it’s a new heater for 2016, we can’t comment on its reliability. The Lasko gives you some of the best performance with easily the best value—for most people using the device only a few months of the year, that’s good enough.
For a space heater, it’s pretty safe. After we ran it for 80 minutes straight, the temperature of the heater’s outer casing topped off at 133 °F—one of the lowest surface operating temperatures of any heaters we looked at. (To put this in context, one heater’s surface measured as low as 113 °F; others went well over 200 °F.) The reasonable surface temperature minimizes risks to kids and pets. It also makes the machine easy to turn off, unplug, and relocate, which most people could do one-handed thanks to its molded-plastic carrying handle.
For added safety, the Lasko comes with an overheat switch that will automatically turn it off if it starts to run at dangerously high temperatures, which can happen if it’s blocked by a piece of furniture, a curtain, or the floor (say, if a child or pet knocks it over while it’s operating).
Fitting the heater into compact spaces is pretty easy, too. Measuring 6 by 7 by 9.2 inches (about the size of a large, round loaf of bread) and weighing a little more than 3 pounds, the Lasko can easily fit into a nook in an office or a corner by a breakfast table. Its 6-foot power cord offers enough length for a small to midsize room without the need for an extension cord.
Electrically, with an estimated monthly energy cost of $33 per month, it isn’t the least expensive heater to operate, but it’s still pretty reasonable. That price assumes that it will run eight hours a day for 30 days straight—we wanted to provide a maximum possible operating expense and let readers adjust to calculate their own probable usage cost. Use it for only an hour every day for a month, and it’s more like $4.13.
Lasko backs its hardware with a three-year limited warranty, which is pretty nice coverage for the device’s low cost. That’s better than most other companies’ warranties, with the exception of Vornado, which typically offers five years of coverage.
Aside from that reassurance, we couldn’t find many trusted editorial reviews. But it’s the most popular space heater on Amazon, with a 4.1-star (out of five) overall score across 10,070 reviews; 60 percent award the heater five stars. Home Depot shoppers give the heater 4.4 out of five stars, and 90 percent of reviewers would recommend it to others. We found similar levels of satisfaction at Walmart.
Some editors on the Sweethome staff have owned the Lasko for multiple winters and have no complaints about its operation long-term. Sweethome editor Harry Sawyers owns two, and both were in daily use for hours at a time during the winters in Chicago in 2013 to 2014 and again the following year. After cross-country moves and months in storage his units are both working perfectly in the fall of 2016.
Like all fan-driven heaters, it’s a little loud. We measured 40 decibels of sound from a distance of 6 feet away (that’s like a refrigerator with the compressor running; see this decibel chart for context). This noise level was middle-of-the-road for all of the fan-forced heaters we tested in a previous year. The quietest fan-forced heater we tested was the Vornado VH200, which operates at 33 decibels. At the other end of the spectrum was the Holmes HFH436WGL-UM, which produces 46 decibels of noise. That said, the white noise isn’t distracting.
The Lasko 754200 has an overheat sensor, but it lacks a tip-over switch to ensure that it turns off if someone or something knocks it over. Tipped-over heaters tend to overheat, which could be a dangerous situation—then again, you should never leave a space heater on and unattended, especially with pets or young children around.
The 754200 lacks true temperature control, but that’s not such a big deal. When you’re cold, turn it up; when you’re hot, turn it down. It has no timer either, but remember, this thing is cheap. You can always inexpensively add a separate timer so that you can, for example, warm up the kitchen in advance on a winter morning (we like this one). Or, if you’re so inclined, you can pair it with a smart plug and control it with your smartphone or tablet.
Finally, the Lasko 754200 doesn’t hold on to the heat it produces once you have turned it off, due to the fact that it has a relatively small thermal mass. But that’s a problem you’ll find with any ceramic-plate heater, so it’s hard to fault this model for that.
In previous years, we’ve found that the Lasko 754200 can become unavailable once the weather turns cold. If that happens, get the Honeywell UberHeat HCE200W.
It’s a little more expensive than our main pick, roughly $10 more at the time of publication. But for the money, you get slightly better performance. During a two-hour heating test in 2016, the UberHeat warmed up our test area faster than our main pick did, and reached a final temperature (89.4 °F) two degrees hotter than the Lasko heater’s. Because of these results, we briefly considered making the UberHeat this guide’s main pick for small rooms. But a few factors that steered us back toward the Lasko.
First, there’s price—around $35 at the time we wrote this. (The Lasko averages around $25 even with some seasonal up and downs.) Next, the UberHeat is louder than the Lasko—44 decibels versus 40. This is likely due to the noise made by its fan (a more powerful fan might also account for why the UberHeat heated up our test space faster than our main pick could.) We also found that the UberHeat cooled down faster than any of the six heaters we tested this year. Within 25 minutes of being shut off, our test area had returned to its original temperature. Finally, the UberHeat comes with the same three-year warranty as our main pick does, but as it’s a new product for 2016, we have no idea about its reliability. At the time of publication, the UberHeat had only one review on Amazon (it said the heat was effective but noted the noise as a complaint).
We’ll continue to test it over the course of the winter and will update this story as our impressions and other customers’ reviews become available.
The best heater for a larger area is the De’Longhi EW7507EB. During testing, it performed almost identically to the now discontinued De’Longhi TRD0715T Safeheat, which was our large-room heating pick for three years running. Both heaters outperformed similar models at heat generation, thermal retention, and energy efficiency.
Like all oil-filled radiators, the De’Longhi EW7507EB doesn’t give you instant heat. After 20 minutes, this De’Longhi model was capable of raising the temperature of our test area by only 1.9 °F (the Lasko 754200 heated it by 4.5 °F in 20 minutes). But after two hours of operation, the De’Longhi heated our test area by 14.1 °F to 87.2 °F—only 1.2 degrees less than the Lasko heater could manage in the same period. But where the Lasko’s noisy fan needed to run nearly constantly to turn the temperature in the test area up so high, the De’Longhi radiator makes almost no noise at all, making it a great choice for use in rooms where quiet is important to you. Plus, all of the oil inside the radiator gives it a large enough thermal mass to keep emitting heat for roughly an hour after the hardware turns off.
The EW7507EB has a digital thermostat that can use that thermal mass to maintain a set temperature as the machine cycles on and off. It kept our test area heated pretty consistently; temperature variance was less than 4 degrees over a one-hour period. A number of the ceramic heaters we tested could match this feat—but to do so, they had to run regularly, with their fans kicking up a lot of noise. This fan-free machine does the job in silence, save for the occasional ping of its metal fins expanding or contracting.
Among the dozen or so oil-filled radiators available, the features that set this De’Longhi apart are pretty basic—it has a timer, for one thing, and the surface doesn’t get hot enough to burn you. (Not all of them can claim this.) After applying our basic requirements, only this heater and the runner-up qualified for testing. But this one has some advantages.
The De’Longhi EW7507EB’s double-function digital timer is a nice feature that’s missing in our Lasko pick and in more-expensive devices that we’ve tested from makers like Vornado and Dyson. In most cases, the timer on a heater allows you to schedule either a shutdown time or a time to power on, but not both. Our large-room pick can actually do both: Just schedule the radiator to turn on and off, a maximum of twice within a 24-hour period.
The EW7507EB is reasonably cheap to operate, as well. When you use it for supplemental heating, it’ll cost you about $35 a month to run if you operate it eight hours a day for 30 days, or just over $4 if you use it for an hour a day. That isn’t the lowest operating cost among the heaters we tested this year—the Lasko 754200 should cost a few dollars less during shorter operating periods—but this heater still offers a reasonable way to add some warmth to your home.
We haven’t found many editorial reviews for the De’Longhi EW7507EB, more because of its obscurity rather than any lack of value. But on Amazon, reviews are overwhelmingly positive, as the heater has a 4.2-star rating (out of five) across 709 reviews at the time of this writing (with more than half of those awarding it a five-star rating). We found similarly favorable reviews for the heater on the sites for Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart.
As quiet and efficient as the De’Longhi EW7507EB is, we didn’t like a few things about it. For starters, its surface becomes pretty hot. After running it on its highest setting for 80 minutes, we found that its maximum surface temperature hit 225 °F, the highest surface temperature we encountered in our testing this year. However, it doesn’t get as hot as oil-filled radiator heaters we’ve dismissed in the past, and it still doesn’t get nearly as hot as radiant/infrared heaters, which we don’t recommend.
Next, it’s pretty bulky. As it weighs 24 pounds and takes up 14.4 by 6.3 by 25.2 inches of space, calling the EW7507EB a “portable” heater is hard to do with a straight face. You can roll it around on caster wheels, so its heft shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t need to haul it up or down a flight of stairs on a regular basis. And when you’ve positioned the heater where you want it, you can tuck away the wheels.
We were also unimpressed with the fact that though its digital timer is easy to use, it’ll need resetting every time it loses power, so if you unplug the heater to move it, you’ll have to reprogram it once you’ve plugged it in again.
The first few times you use it, the EW7507EB emits a foul odor. But most other oil-filled radiators do this, because some of the radiator’s oil remains on the surface of the heater after manufacturing. Once the oil has burned off, the smell disappears.
Last, several heaters in this guide do not come equipped with a grounded (three-pronged) plug. The De’Longhi EW7507EB, like many of the other heaters we’ve tested over the past few years, uses a polarized two-pronged plug that meets Underwriters Laboratories safety standards. Assuming that you connect the EW7507EB to a properly grounded outlet, it’ll be just as safe as a model with a three-pronged plug—provided that you follow the safety guidelines in this guide as well as those from the heater’s manufacturer. And if you plan on using a heater (or anything electrical) around water, the safest way to do so is to use a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet.
If you can’t find our main pick for large rooms, consider the De’Longhi Radia S Eco TRRS 0715E. Its specs are very similar to our pick’s, as is its price (currently, this model is a few bucks higher). The radiator-style heater comes with a digital thermostat, operates in near-silence, and has an overheat detector and an anti-freeze setting designed to protect nearby plumbing pipes.
Despite the similarities, it doesn’t heat as well as our main pick—it’s slower, and, in the end, doesn’t get as hot. At the 120-minute mark, the TRRS 0715E had raised the room’s temperature to only 78.6 °F—an increase of 5.6 °F—and our main radiator pick warmed the test area’s temperature up to 87.2 °F. It is a few pounds lighter, which makes it easier to move from room to room than our pick, but that reduced weight may be related to its weaker heating performance. Like our main pick, when you unplug it from the wall, you’ll need to reprogram it once you plug it in again.
The TRRS 0715E comes with an eco function designed to minimize energy use—but all it really does is lower the temperature a few degrees from your preferred setting.
Space heaters usually fall into two basic categories: radiant heaters and convection heaters. Both of our main picks land in the second category. In radiant-style heaters, you can find two major technologies: wire-element and quartz. We don’t think either kind is right for most people’s homes.
Wire-element heaters are what most people think of when someone says space heater. They operate the same way that household toasters do: You plug the heater into the wall, turn it on, and a little too much electricity goes coursing through an array of high-resistance wires. These wire elements almost instantly start to glow red-hot and heat up to temperatures as high as 1,000 °F. (Yes, that’s dangerous.) The heat moves outward from the wires with the help of a reflective backing or a fan warming up a small chunk of space around the heater.
Quartz-element heaters are a little safer than wire-element heaters. They sheathe the heater’s wire element inside of a quartz tube. This quartz sheath also insulates the wire, making the heater more efficient and allowing it to heat up faster without using as much electricity as an unsheathed wire element does. As with wire-element heaters, you get a boatload of radiant heat that a fan can push around the room. It works fast, but the heat dissipates quickly after you’ve shut off the hardware.
The better choice for most people is a modern convection heater—these are safer, more efficient, and better able to perform while operating at lower temperatures.
Micathermic heaters use both radiant heating and convection heating to warm up the area you use them in. The hardware consists of two main elements: radiant heating coils and a thin sheet of a mica, a mineral that handles high temperatures exceptionally well. When the heating coils underneath the mica sheet receive power, they produce infrared radiation, which heats up the mica. The mica in turn, warms the air around it, drawing in cool air and pushing out what it’s warmed, thus heating your room.
The great thing about micathermic heaters is that they heat up faster than a ceramic-plate heater can and produce heat more quickly than an oil-filled radiator can. Additionally, though long and tall, micathermic hardware has very little girth and is significantly thinner than most oil-filled radiators, so you can fit the heater into a small space. The not-so-great thing about micathermic heaters is that though they heat up quickly, they don’t retain much heat once you turn them off.
We’ve rarely seen them at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Costco, and Amazon has listed a small number of micathermic heaters in the past, most of which go in and out of production. De’Longhi has had a number of different models on its site, but the company currently produces only one micathermic unit. Long story short: Micathermic heaters don’t offer an advantage over other heating technologies and are increasingly difficult to find, so we don’t have a recommendation in this category.
Beyond just finding a heater that works well and isn’t dangerous, here are more features most people would want:
This is the fifth year we’ve tested and recommended space heaters. It’s not a category that changes much from year to year. To find what new (and old) hardware would be available this winter, we looked to some of the most popular online sites for home hardware—Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Costco.
Between what we found from our own scouting and the latest info sources like The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and Consumer Reports, we came up with a list of 27 new heaters. Some key criteria helped us narrow down this list to just six pieces of gear. Anything that didn’t offer basic safety features we nixed. Anything without an ETL, CSA, or UL mark—gone. Any hardware that had poor (or no) user reviews missed the cut, as did anything that we saw online or in a store but couldn’t find listed on the manufacturer’s website.
In the end, including our two category leaders from last year, I wound up with two different oil-filled radiators (listed first) and four fan-forced ceramic plate heaters:
Jim Shapiro PhD tested each heater in the incredibly rigorous series of tests outlined below. We used an 11 by 13 foot bedroom in his home as a test space. It had two outside walls with a double-pane window covered by an insulated shade in each. Before he began running his tests each day, Shapiro waited until the late morning, when his house’s temperature was stable, and he turned off his home’s heating system for the duration of each test.
For each test, we looked at the following:
The Vornado VH10 was last year’s small-room runner-up pick. It actually performed better than the Lasko, with a lower surface temperature, slightly quieter operation, faster heating, and a higher final temperature during testing. But it costs significantly more than either the Lasko or our new runner-up, the Honeywell UberHeat. It works well, and if you see it at as good a price as our picks, go for it (but historically we haven’t seen its price go that low).
The Honeywell Heat Genius HCE840B was new for this year too. It’s a ceramic heater that uses two fans to deliver white noise upon request, three “floor” heat settings, and two “room” settings. Unlike our Lasko pick, the Heat Genius comes with an actual thermostat, so you can see what temperature you’re setting it to. It also boasts a cool-down setting that lowers the wattage every half hour, and can be set in half-hour increments up to two hours—perfect for use when you’re going to bed for the night. But here’s the thing: It costs almost three times as much as our Lasko pick does but didn’t heat up our test area as well. No matter how much we like the rest of the tricks it can do, cost and performance are difficult metrics to ignore—pass.
We’ve tested and considered a lot of heaters over the past five years and dismissed them for lacking features we considered vital or otherwise underperforming relative to our picks.
The Vornado ATH1 Whole Room Tower Heater proved capable of warming up our test area almost as quickly as the Lasko 754200, but at the time of writing, it cost $95.
The Crane EE-8079 costs four times more than the Lasko does and heated up our test space only a little bit quicker.
The De’Longhi HVY1030 is in the same price range as the Lasko 754200. But it comes with a one-year warranty—the Lasko model has coverage for three—and it couldn’t raise our test space area as quickly. Pass.
Dyson AM09. It’s a ceramic heater that has the potential to serve as a pretty decent fan when the weather is warm. But it cost $400 at the time of writing and, during our 20-minute test, the Dyson raised the temperature of our test area 3.3 °F less than our pick, which costs much, much less.
The Holmes HFH436WGL-UM is a bathroom-safe heater that comes with a built-in GFCI—but your bathroom outlets should be GFCI types already. But it could warm up our test area by only a mere 4.2 °F.
The Bionaire BCH9214RE-BM, managed to raise the temperature by just 3.9 °F during our tests. On top of that, Shapiro reported that its heat was uneven, with multiple cold spots detected by his testing hardware throughout the area around the heater.
The Impress 1500-watt Space Heater and Lasko 5409 overheated and shut down during our timed 20-minute heat test. If they can’t run for 20 minutes in a controlled environment without running into trouble, you really don’t want them in your house.
The De’Longhi EW7707CB Safeheat 1500W ComforTemp Portable Oil-filled Radiator has no timer, which sucks for a heater that doesn’t warm up instantly.
Shapiro felt that the low profile of the Lasko 5624 Low Profile Silent Room Heater made it a tripping hazard. We decided to take a pass on it.
The Dyson AM05 failed to beat our main pick in our 20-minute heating test. In April 2014, Dyson had to recall the heater due to 82 of the units short-circuiting. If you own one, stop using it and send it back to Dyson for a replacement.
The De’Longhi DCH1030 Safeheat costs $81 per month to operate, which is close to $50 more per month than this year’s picks will cost you. That’s insane.
The Optimus H-6010 Portable Oil-filled Radiator Heater wasn’t able to raise the temperature of the test area as quickly as our large pick and cost more to operate.
The Lasko 755320 ceramic tower heater wasn’t capable of increasing the temperature of our test area as quickly as the 754200 did.
The Vornado iControl costs five times more than our Lasko pick does, but doesn’t heat nearly as quickly.
The Lasko 6462 costs more than our small-room pick, but doesn’t heat as well.
The Lasko 751320 Ceramic Tower Heater with Remote Control was unable to best our Lasko small-room pick in our 20-minute heating test and has an unreliable thermostat.
The SoleusAir HGW-308R is a mica panel heater that generated a respectable 19.6 °F change in our test area in an hour’s time, but has poorly designed wheels that make it difficult to move around.
Our Lasko pick outperformed the Vornado AVH2 both in heating ability and monthly energy usage.
The De’Longhi TRN0812T is an oil-filled radiator that comes with a GFCI electrical plug. The radiator’s peak surface temperature hit 262 °F—more than 30 degrees higher than our pick’s peak temperature, and hot enough to burn anyone who accidentally touches it. No thanks.
Heating equipment was involved in an estimated average of 56,000 fires in the US between 2009 and 2013, according to a March 2016 report by the National Fire Protection Association. Space heaters figured into 40 percent of these. How do you keep safe?
We asked Gary McCall, former fire advisor to the Office of the Fire Commissioner for British Columbia’s Vancouver Island Region, who spent 30 years as a firefighter and fire chief. McCall said the first step to safely using any portable heater is to buy one that’s certified by either the CSA or the ULC (or just plain old UL in the United States).
In addition to that, read the heater’s manual for any specific warnings, and keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from the heater. Keep yourself at least 3 feet away, too. Space heaters are designed to supplement the home’s main heating system—not to be a primary heat source—so ideally you won’t have to crowd in too close to the device or run it around the clock.
We also need to mention a big rule that many people don’t know: “A lot of manufacturers will tell you flat out that you shouldn’t be using the heater with an extension cord,” McCall said. If you absolutely must use one, make sure the cord’s length and gauge are rated for the electrical demands of a heater. Set it up so it’s not a tripping hazard, and don’t run it under a carpet or overhead.
Originally published: October 20, 2016